Editor's note: MidlandToday has asked council candidates in Midland, Penetanguishene and Tiny Township to provide a synopsis of why they are running for public office. Municipal elections take place Oct. 24.
The following response is from Bill Gordon, who is running for mayor in Midland. For more election coverage, visit our 2022 municipal election page by clicking here, where you can find candidate profiles and other election news.
What is your name, what will be your age on election day, and who are your key immediate family members you rely on for support?
Bill Gordon, 53, and my family has roots here back to the founding families of our community. My wife of 27 years, Donna, is a social worker and practising psychotherapist. She helps with valuable input and perspectives beyond the more clinical conservative approach I would take without her advice and thoughts on important matters in our household and community.
My daughter Laura is in her last year of nursing at McMaster and has given us the gift of our first granddaughter last year. My son Bryan is an aspiring electrical apprentice and is working towards a career in the skilled trades. My extended family here has been supportive of both Donna and I since our first retail businesses in Midland and my time with the former Police Service and then the Province of Ontario before pivoting to the pharmaceutical industry pre-COVID.
In 10 words or less, why is your municipality the best in the province?
Small-town charm, wonderful people, and access to Georgian Bay.
What prompted you to run as a municipal leader?
I spent my adult working life serving this community in law enforcement. When that career path ended I was free to continue my public service as one of your voices at the Council table, able to advance the will of the residents into policy, budgets and decision making that influences our community’s ability to grow responsibly while maintaining that small town charm that makes Midland such an attractive place to live, work and play.
Midland Bay Landing is mired in controversy, involving contaminated land, residents wanting to protect parkland, developer visions for the future, and the municipality’s choice for that developer. What is your stance on Midland Bay Landing?
I am supportive of responsible development at Midland Bay Landing, however, it has been 10 years since it has received public input, bringing it out for review would allow us to ensure that it meets the needs of our present-day community.
For example, putting public use/mixed-use development into phase one ahead of the residential development might be one consideration. The notion widely held by our current mayor and most of this council is that those consultations done a decade ago satisfy that requirement and there is no appetite to change course or revisit the plan despite the community-wide desire to do so following the pandemic and a renewed appreciation for public outdoor spaces. I need your help by electing candidates who are brave enough to pause this process and revisit the plans with the residents so that we have a clear mandate to move forward with a revised plan more reflective of our community’s desire for a premiere, four-season, accessible, public access waterfront on Georgian Bay.
You will be asked to join committees and other municipal representations. Which are you eager to become involved in?
As Mayor, I will meet with each councillor to help fit them into committees and boards that resonate with their motivations to serve our community. Unlike other terms, I will rotate participation yearly so that each councillor gets a chance to participate in other committees and boards, broadening their perspectives and ability to help with their decision making. As Mayor, I am an automatic member of each of these committees and boards and will participate with each of them throughout the term. I subscribe to leadership by example and helping to nurture leadership in my team.
Voter apathy is always a concern, ranging between 25.7% to 42% of ballots cast across North Simcoe in the last municipal election. Knowing you could be elected without even half of possible voters turning out, what will you do to combat voter apathy so your municipality is best represented?
Apathy is largely driven by people feeling unrepresented and that their vote, and voice is neither heard nor considered after election day. I rely on my past four years as evidence of how collaborative and responsive an elected representative can be to their community and have that expectation of each member of my new council.
I believe that once people feel engaged and genuinely heard by their local government, they will become more active in the electoral process moving forward. The changes we made this term, largely driven by pandemic uncertainties, should be revisited for the next election, including the return to paper ballot options.
There are many prominent concerns ongoing in the region, from affordable housing to the opioid epidemic to short-term rentals as well as others. What is one concern that you think the majority of residents are not aware of?
I believe that most residents don’t understand why our taxes remain so high and why we seem to be unwilling or unable to curb our spending and seem intent on finding ways to raise revenues instead. Affordability is a plague across our nation, but as local decision makers, dealing with runaway inflation, rising interest rates, ballooning insurance cost and all the other challenges that our residents face daily in their personal and business lives, I hear from residents that our government is out of touch with reality, and they don’t understand why we can’t seem to hold the line on our spending. This can change in the 2023 budget if a strong mayor and dedicated council is formed.
The province is planning for a population of 555,000 and 198,000 jobs by 2051. If now is the time to prepare for that influx, what will you proactively do as your part in the process?
We need to embrace responsible development in Midland. Too many large housing projects are stalled in litigation. Hundreds of housing units are stuck in appeal processes. Responsible growth means working WITH developers and having a desire to be flexible and accommodating while negotiating for the best outcomes for Midland’s current and future residents. We need to entice development that meets our current and future growth needs, that discourages sprawl and encourages in-filling and gentle density concepts. As our community grows, so must the supportive businesses and jobs to serve the residents and visitors to our community. The key will be the balance of growth and preservation of our small-town charm that attracts people to Midland in the first place.
Recidivism isn’t just on the police and courts. As a municipal leader and crafter of bylaws, what initiatives will you undertake to address crime in your care?
We will need to work more closely with the OPP to make Midland (zone 5) more of a priority. Speed enforcement and more proactive patrols in our community can curb crime simply by having visible police on our streets. My 25 years in local law enforcement allows me to speak plainly with our policing partners about the needs, knowing full well what is possible and how the business of policing works. In addition, I want to build a proactive bylaw department that no longer sits in the office waiting for complaints to investigate. By getting proactive, we can deter offences and must do more to enforce our noise and property standards bylaws as well as trail safety. New laws without any plan for enforcement are a waste of time, money and effort.
Infrastructure projects require taxpayer dollars. What infrastructure project does the municipality desperately need, and does it justify a tax increase from the ratepayers to have it done as soon as possible?
Our wastewater plant needs significant upgrades to meet the needs of tomorrow and the decades that follow. Our century-old water towers need replacing. We still have combined sewers to dig up and replace and kilometres of century-old pipes that fail and must be replaced. We need infrastructure funding from the Province and the Federal government to take these projects on. Our local ratepayers lack the capacity. Our reserves are almost empty, and we have challenges with high taxation, low median household incomes and trouble managing to keep our roads and sidewalks in good condition and cleared each winter. There is much work to do and unlike the Province and Federal government, we cannot run deficit budgets. We must focus on wants vs needs in our budgets and look for ways to cut our spending, focusing on the most important service delivery and more efficient ways to deliver those services.
Times change. What is the most aged or obsolete bylaw in your municipality’s code?
The biggest challenge for councillors and residents is that there is no easy way to find our bylaws online. We have bylaws that our bylaw department did not even know existed when I inquired about them (eg: fortification bylaw). Midland needs to dust off the bylaws, get them digitized, searchable and online for all to see. Then we need to pick the most relevant ones and set a routine cadence for review and refresh. I don’t have one to pick on but clearly any new bylaw such as the e-bike ban, noise, parking rates, no-mow initiatives and property standards should be revisited early in the next term.
Once you complete your four-year term, what is the legacy you want residents to best remember for your time in office?
I will want people to remember how open, accessible, and collaborative Town hall and Council became. I want them to know their council listened to them, valued their input, didn’t just call for input on issues where it is “mandatory” and is seen to have acted on their input. Engaging with the government empowers everyone to feel like they are part of the decision making that impacts their lives – from budgets and taxation to development plans for the future, to new services and amenities. If I leave office with those sentiments in the hearts and minds of our residents, I will have done what I set out to do.
Municipal election information for Midland is available on the elections page of the town website.
For Midland residents:
For the first time, Midland voters will be voting by internet and telephone only. The Town of Midland has entered into an agreement with Intelivote Systems Inc. to provide the software, consulting and technical services required to implement this voting method.
Voting will take place between October 11 and 24, 2022. Voters will receive a Voter Instruction Letter (VIL) by mail containing directions on how to vote using the internet or the telephone, or both. You will receive this letter seven (7) to fourteen (14) days prior to October 11, 2022.
You will only receive a VIL if your name is on the Voters’ List. Please call the Clerk's Office at 705-526-4275 ext. 2212 or 2208 or come into the Municipal Office at 575 Dominion Avenue to make sure you are on the Voters' List.
A Voter Assistance Centre will be located in the Council Chambers at the Municipal Office at 575 Dominion Avenue. Please bring your Voter Instruction Letter and a document showing your name and address for identification.
Voter Assistance Centres will also be set up at several retirement/nursing homes for in-home residents only.